I have not been okay, but, like, I’m okay.

c/w suicidal ideations, alcohol/drug use, grief/loss

Hello, my loves. It has been a minute, hasn’t it? My instinct is to apologize for the long, procrastinated post; however, I am working on apologizing less for me just being me. Therefore, I am not sorry, but I would like to provide you with an explanation of my recent absence. I realize that writing a personal blog about my journey with mental health is both apparent when there is a post and when there is not a post.

Over the last month or so I hit a low… again. This time was different because I didn’t really see it coming. I was riding a high for so long, that even though I knew I would hit a downward slope again, I was hoping that just maybe I was wrong. Just maybe with my therapy and medication and stable partner I could just be “normal”, whatever that is. In my head “normal” is being able to live everyday without this overwhelming pain of the past and fear of the future grabbing ahold of you at different times in your life. I suppose after 2020 though, nobody is truly normal. Everyone I have talked to has struggled with their mental health is some way, shape, or form. Is this the new normal then? AM I NORMAL? I could never.

Anyways… While I used to think that my lows bloomed out of random acts of the universe, I now understand the many triggers that send me into a downward spiral. These last few weeks it was a culmination of so many things. The change in weather, in sunlight, election anxiety, work stress, the ins and outs of a new relationship, the coping skills from my eating disorder that I still lean into, the upcoming anniversary of the loss of a dear friend (re: Alex Wolf), the lack of continued contact to so many loved ones, the never ending news of millions upon millions of deaths from a virus that has been mishandled, the nightmares of people that have hurt me that wake me up in the middle of the night, my upcoming 30th birthday… need I go on? It wasn’t out of nowhere these feelings formed. My depression and how it responds to all of these life stressors is valid. Life is hard, having a mental illness is hard, writing this blog post is hard.

In fact, my roommate just walked into the room and said “are you crying? Is writing that hard?” And I just came to the realization that part of the reason I haven’t written anything in over a month is because I knew it was going to bring up a lot of feelings in me. These feelings are honestly a bit overwhelming. They sometimes show up as tears, or debilitation, or over activeness, or cold sores, or all of the above; it’s all a fine line. I must say this most recent slump has been much more manageable than my past experiences. I’ve only though about dying once, and it was so fleeting I wondered if it even counted- that is a major improvement for me. Hip hip hurray!

As I prepare to enter my 30th year of life, I can’t help but look back at the last 30 years and reflect on all the different ways my life has twisted and turned. Did I think I would ever be able to say I barely think of dying? When I was little, did I ever imagine the life that I am living right now? Not even a little bit. If my life had turned out the way I dreamed of as a kid, I would be famous, married, and have many adopted children, and probably live somewhere else like London or Australia. If my life had turned out the way I dreamed of when I was a teenager, I wouldn’t exist. And if my life had turned out the way I dreamed of as a young college student, I would be lawyer with a drinking problem.

Through these reflective moments, I am also reminded of how my depression has transformed over the years. How my low days are primarily a lack of motivation and much less suicidal ideations. How I am able to recognize it and provide myself with comfort instead of searching for it from strangers on the internet. The way that I reach out to those who truly love me, instead of pulling away from everyone that I love. Even just the way that I know that I am loved instead of feeling like the world would prefer that I not be here. I spent the last month in a depressive state and it didn’t scare me. I listened to the things that I needed in moments that felt the hardest and stopped shaming myself into feeling that it was wrong. It is hard enough being depressed and then also have my brain reprimand me for the way I was dealing with that depression.

I frequently ask my patients what their coping skills are and 9 times out of 10 they slink down into their chair and they begin to mumble that they smoke weed, or drink alcohol, or watch hours upon hours of TV. I try to reposition their mind set, the shame that lives within their slouched backs and mumbled tones. We are, at the core, humans trying to survive. Is drinking wine because I am sad the healthiest coping skill? Nah. Does it make me feel good in the moment, you can bet your bottom dollar. And I tell my clients just that. We do these things because we want to feel better and we shouldn’t shame ourselves into feeling bad for that. We can recognize that these are not long term solutions and that without getting real care and proper help these coping skills could create more harm than good; we can also recognize that sometimes getting stoned feels good. There is no healing when shame is masking all that we do, no matter what we are trying to heal from.

As I mentioned earlier, the anniversary of the loss of Alex Wolf is coming up on November 20th. Grief is not linear and there is no right way to heal. Many of us this year are experiencing that feeling. I can promise you that on Friday, I will be crying and I will have wine and I will call my best friend, his sister, and we will probably cry together and that might happen every year on November 20th and there is healing in that. I’m over feeling shame. Shame for what I put in my body, shame for how I heal, shame for how I look, shame for any of it.

Alex Wolf is one of the best people I’ve had in my life and when he passed I made a promise to live life like Alex. Alex was like the antidote for feeling shame. He made the people around him feel proud to be who they were because he was proud of himself and proud of his friends. In fact, I am smiling while I write this thinking about the time I was capturing images of my friends and asking them to give me their essence. [Image posted below.] Alex ran to put on his homemade corduroy shorts and take a picture with his best friend and I’ve never seen anyone more proud, even while me, his sister, and best friend mocked the shorts.

(Pictured: Stephanie B. and Alex W.)

So, all of this is to say 1. I haven’t been okay, but, like, I’m okay, 2. I still have depression and that is very real and I am still working to heal and cope, 3. thank goodness my life has taken twists and turns 4. There is no right way to cope, 5. Let’s stop shame altogether, 6. I miss you, Alex, 7. I am still trying to live my life like Alex, 8. Best friend, call me on Friday.

A[wo]men

when i let shame take ahold of me

i let go of knowing

i am exactly

where i need to be

-reasons to get rid of shame

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